GriefSpeak: Still Standing

By: Dr. Mari Dias

2020 was a year of loss for many. We individually and collectively grieved the loss of loved ones who died, alone in the hospital, without a wake or funeral. In addition, many of you are still grieving the loss of touch, independence, identity, school, political stability, and family. For many, this grief is coupled with fear and anxiety which is quite unsettling. Heavy. Now add on the pressure to make the best of a bad situation and we struggle with a tsunami.

Some have drowned or been swept away by this tsunami. Suicides, drug addiction, depression, and anxiety, all have been too much for some to bear. Many have felt like Schrodinger’s cat, both alive and dead in a directionless, uncertain world. Yet, many are still standing. I am reminded of a story that a colleague told of a man who likened his grief to a 100-pound boulder on his back. When asked “If/how has the weight of the boulder changed throughout his grief” – he replied:

“The boulder is just as heavy as it was the day I began to carry it; however, my back is getting stronger.”

I like to believe that many of us have stronger backs. In counseling, we talk about “reframing” a client’s story. Look at it from a different perspective. This is not a simple task. We are so deeply mired in the darkness of 2020 that it may seem impossible to find a light. By reframing 2020 we may find that the weight is still heavy, yet the use of a different lens may provide some insight. For example, a gifted client recently told me that she reframed 2020 as the following:

“Our past need not define us but refine us.”

Let us go forth into 2021 with some hope, forgiveness, and clarity. As you read this, I am participating in the polar bear plunge. I choose to dive into the cold waters of the new year as I purge the darkness of 2020 and awaken and welcome another new beginning.

Happy New Year to All.

Dr. Mari Dias is a nationally board-certified counselor, holds a Fellow in Thanatology and is certified in both grief counseling and complicated grief. Dias is a Certified death doula, and has a Certificate in Psychological Autopsy.

She is Professor of Clinical Mental Health, Master of Science program, Johnson & Wales University. Dias is the director of GracePointe Grief Center, in North Kingstown, RI.  For more information, go to:

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